Macpherson concludes his argument in The Political Theory of Possessive Individualism, Hobbes to Locke, with the following lament:
The question whether the actual relations of a possessive market society can be abandoned or transcended, without abandoning liberal political institutions, bristles with difficulties. In the measure that market society could be abandoned, the problem of cohesion would be resolved, for the problem was defined as the need for a degree of cohesion which would counteract the centrifugal force of market relations. But there would still be the problem of finding a substitute for that recognition of a fundamental equality which had originally been provided by the supposed inevitable subordination of everyone to the market. Could any conceivable new concept of fundamental equality, which would be consistent with the maintenance of liberal institutions and values, possibly get the wide acknowledgment without which, as I have argued, no autonomous theory of political obligation could be valid?
One can’t help but wonder, which particular liberal institutions and values does Macpherson have in mind here that would require maintenance because they’re in dire need of preserving? It’s clear enough from the context they must have to do with promoting and reinforcing the “concept of fundamental equality” among men. Never mind the fact that the kind of equality both he and Hobbes envisage is misdirected; reactive rather than pro-active (“constructive” is a better term), but more on that later. Also never mind that Macpherson is unduly beholden here to the political, as though the only true measure of the relative well-being of a human society. No mention whatever is made of the economic relations which happen to underpin the lot, no relationship of any kind between the two either established or argued for. All we’re told is that in the event that “the market society could be abandoned” [my emphasis]. . . we could proceed thus and thus, towards socialism, I suppose. It’s as clinical and sanitized a treatment as it gets, going nowhere and asking for nothing. No reference whatever is made to human suffering, the direct and immediate consequence of market relations trumping the political ones, to include our so-called liberal institutions and values.